5 Dress Watches Under $1000

Guides | 06.28.2012

Once again, we’ve had a request from our readers for a guide. This time, it’s on affordable dress watches. Now, dress watches are a bit of a funny category, in my honest opinion. What really defines it? Is it a small size and elegant materials? Is it glitz, glamour and dare I say, bling? Is a nice pilot watch really going to be reproached at your friend’s wedding? Is a stylish diver going to get stink eye at your nephew’s bar mitzvah? No…I doubt it. Yet, there is a sense of what distinguishes a dress watch from other watches: non-aggressive lines, subtle but elegant dials and cases, lack of color and an overall look that compliments an outfit, rather than acts as the star. It is certainly subjective, and I think one should wear what is most comfortable to them and what is appropriate for the situation. A meeting with the boss is different than an anniversary dinner, so keep that in mind. That being said, there are many nice dress watches out there that range in price from dirt cheap to astronomical. This list is but 5 of those watches, all mechanical, all acceptable as dress watches and all quite affordable. *many of the watches in our under 40mm guide are also suitable as dress watches, so check that out too~

Steven Allan $285

So, you have to go to a wedding or other nice event and you’re in a pinch for a watch, perhaps you’ve exceeded your budget on travel, a suit and some nice shoes… Maybe you just prefer to spend your cash on nice divers and pilots… it’s cool, we understand. But chances are, if you are at w&w, you don’t want to wear a watch that you are embarrassed by or isn’t at least a good deal. So, check out this Steven Allan dress auto (who knew they made watches?…or put their name on dials?). At $285, you’ve got a Miyota auto, mineral crystal, decent looks and…wait for it… A Horween Cordovan strap! The strap itself could cost more than the whole watch, if it were by a different brand, and we have a feeling it represents 200 of the 285… The watch has a 39mm case with a dial that is conventional, but well laid out and easy to wear.

Prometheus Signatura $484 (Apprx) 

A little larger at 42mm and a little sportier, but no less elegant, the Prometheus Signatura is a dress watch that exudes masculinity.  We wrote a little piece about them here when they first came out, so I’ll defer to that for details, but to sum it up, great components including enameled dials and selitta movements at a very reasonable price. Not to mention fantastic looks that are as strong as they are refined. Hard to pass up at $484 (euro depending).

Tissot Visodate $487

The Tissot Visodate is a re-issue/re-interpretation of a classic Tissot watch from the 50’s. With a curved silver dial, applied chrome markers, domed sapphire and an ETA 2836 automatic movement with day/date, the Visodate is handsome and stylish. It exudes a distinctly retro vibe that would be as comfortable in the office as the bar. The 40 x 11.6mm offers some wrist presence while not being ostentatious and lends the watch a bit more edge. At $487, this is a genuine steal for what you get… Frankly, just buy this one and wear it all the time.

Autran & Viala Cartouche $616 – $768 (Apprx)

If classical looks are your thing, then this might be the watch for you. A 38mm x 9.8mm stainless steel case is matched with blue steel Breuget hands, a calligraphic font, guilloche dial, an onion crown and a coined bezel for a look that is sophisticated beyond its price. As you can see from these detail shots, the watch is beautifully detailed and sophisticated (seriously, click on that link as the pic above doesn’t do the watch justice). The Cartouche is made in Pforzheim, Germany by the Ickler family and features a sapphire crystal and an ETA 2824-2 movement. At $616 (with leather), it is clearly well-priced for what it has to offer.

Stowa Antea Small Seconds $680 – $808 (Apprx)

If the simplicity of the Bauhaus calls out to you, which it should, look no further than the Stowa Antea. With clean case lines, elegant sizing, and an unpretentious dial, the Antea says you’ve got an eye for style, and the refinement not to show off. The Antea is available in a few variations, but the small seconds version with silver-coated dial really catches our eye. Featuring a hand wound Peseux 7001 movement, which is beautiful in its own right, the added small seconds is about as subtle as a complication can get while adding a hint more visual interest. The 35.5 x 6.5mm case will fit comfortably under any shirtsleeve, and can be worn for long periods of time. And though this is a dress watch guide, the Antea can clearly be worn casually.

Thanks for reading and let us know what your favorite affordable dress watches are in the comments, we just might include them in the next installment.

by Zach Weiss

  • http://URL Richard

    That’s a nice list, although the Steven Alan is kind of a weak choice as it is a fashion brand and the design is incredibly derivative of 60s IWC watches.

    A review of Autran & Viala would be nice–I haven’t seen much about them although I know it’s an Ickler brand.

    There are a few other solid options out there: Junghans Max Bill, several Hamiltons, and of course a number of Seiko SARBs.

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com w&w

      Hi Richard,

      Yeah…I debated the Steven Allan for a while, but decided to put it in because of the strap, and because I think every other guide we have done has included an Orient and/or Seiko 5 in the low price slot.

      Also, the under 40mm post included a Max Bill and a Hamilton, so varieties sake I kept them out of here. I felt that the Tissot was a nice alternative to the Jazzmasters we usually include. Though I debated putting the new Intra-matic in as the highest price offering, but decided to leave the Antea there, as it offers better value.

      Thank for the comment!
      -Zach

  • http://URL Mike

    That Stowa is incredibly tempting. I can’t believe it is only 35mm, and it certainly can be both a casual and dress watch. I’ll keep my eye on it in the future.

    That Smiths Everest in the linked article is looking like it will be my next purchase. It just looks stunning on the steel bracelet, and it also looks quite sporty on a black nato. Plus, it’s under $400.

    Thanks for doing the write up, Zach. This is quickly becoming my favorite site.

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com w&w

      Great to hear Mike. The Everest is a very nice explorer homage, I’m sure you’ll like it. I tried to get one for the site, but they were not interested in a review. You’ll have to let us know how it is!

      Best, Zach

  • http://URL Phillip Chouzenoux

    New to this site and I find it to be super-WELL DONE!

  • Yoyo

    what about Orient – Bambino or Orient Star – Classic ?

    • wornandwound

      both definitely qualify.